Impacts of Climate Change, Vulnerability and Adaptation

The consequences of climate change are already being felt throughout the world. Measures to adapt to and cope with climate impacts need to be taken in a broad range of sectors, such as water management, agriculture, food security and nutrition, energy, transport, housing, forestry, coastal zone management and fisheries, biodiversity, natural disasters, conflicts and risk management.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides for measures to cope with, and adapt to, these adverse impacts, and developed countries are expected to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable. The Kyoto Protocol stipulates that a share of the proceeds from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) activities is to be used to assist vulnerable developing countries with adaptation. This share has been defined as 2% of CDM proceeds.

In 2005, at COP12 in Nairobi, a five-year work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change was launched. It covered natural scientific issues, socio-economic issues and adaptation planning and practices.

Three specific funds, operated by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), are set up to finance adaptation activities:

  • The Adaptation Fund, supplied by the 2% share of proceeds from the CDM and supervised by an Adaptation Fund Board (AFB), is to finance adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), established in 2001 under the Convention, are to assist Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to prepare and implement national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs), and to finance adaptation and other projects.

Gender Dimension

The impacts of climate change affect women and men differently. Vulnerability is not only related to environmental factors – social conditions play a major role too. Thus, it is not entire countries that are more or less vulnerable, but certain fractions of their populations. Due to their low capacity to adapt, the poor are the most vulnerable group. Women, who make up a disproportionate share of the world’s poor, are therefore among the most vulnerable groups.

The social roles and responsibilities of women lead to a higher degree of dependence on the natural environment. Due to climate change, the burden of work that women carry in order to care for their families, such as collecting water and fire wood, is increasing.

Women face higher risks during and after disasters. They have less access to information such as early warnings, they may receive fewer resources due to inequitable distribution of aid, and they may be subject to sexual violence in post-disaster periods.

Women’s knowledge of natural resources and their common responsibilities in households and communities can be crucial for adaptation and disaster management.


Acknowledge women’s role in adaptation, and ensure the full participation of women in planning and decision-making. In particular, integrate gender analysis into National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and ensure that these are closely linked to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), integrating poverty alleviation and income diversification.

Prepare adaptation plans at regional and local levels, as they can be better tailored towards local realities and are more likely to include women’s participation. Design gender-sensitive adaptation policies and measures.

Design and carry out gender-sensitive capacity building programmes, drawing on the priorities of women and local communities.

Enhance women’s access to land and control over natural resources to make better use of their knowledge, and enhance their abilities and opportunities to mitigate disasters and cope with climate change.

Improve women’s access to information, such as disaster warnings and longer-term changes in weather patterns, and ensure that rural women and women who have been denied the right to education are not excluded. Take into consideration that women and men use different information channels.

Provide additional funds to cover the costs of adaptation for countries with vulnerable populations that lack the resources to cope with climate impacts, and ensure that women and the poor benefit from these funds.